Voices

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There once was a girl. There was a moment in her life when her voice went unheard. She felt bound by the pressures and prejudices of society. It tried to hold her by her feet and glue her lips. Its myriad howling voices – those that told her to dress one way and behave another – attempted to mask her own. Bewildered and weary, she stopped dead in her tracks and sought to retreat. But, she did not for she knew her message, her voice was far greater than she had consciously known.

Candid Chat 2015 (Year End Edition)

Last year was an incredibly challenging year for me. However, it also was a great year for learning. Here are some of the valuable lessons I learned last year.

  1. “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” – George MacDonald

Throughout the course of last year, I had the great pleasure of working with people from all walks of life. Through this experience, one of the things I learned about is trust. If you want people to listen to, and furthermore understand, your message likeability and trust are really important. If I don’t like or trust someone and likewise if someone doesn’t like or trust me, we won’t be able to work with each other in a cordial and efficient manner; thus, affecting not only our relationship with each other, but also our quality of work.

Trust is the foundation of all relationships. It dictates how we choose to interact with each other. One thing you should know about trust is that it is very difficult to earn and is very easily broken. Having to regain trust in any relationship is almost akin to tying a knot using the two ends of a broken rubber band. It, the rubber band and the relationship, never work the same afterwards.

  1. “If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist 

My experiences and observations throughout last year made me realize that we have become a society that is very quick to judge and criticize other people. You can learn a lot about a person by the way they choose to treat others. Hurt and insecure people are going to find ways to hurt others. This, in turn, ends up becoming a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle. The best way to combat this is to treat people the way you want to be treated – with compassion, kindness and respect. I know, this is very easy to say and (depending on the situation) very hard to do, but only the brave hearted can (and will) do it.

Respect is NOT conditional. It doesn’t (or rather shouldn’t) come with one’s social stature, but should be granted to each and every individual.

I realized in the months leading up to the end of the year that a lot of the time people tend to do the best they can with what they know. The reality is: When you know better, you are supposed to do better.

  1. “Only if you give up… It’s your choice, not your fate.” – Plio, Dinosaur (2000)

Over the course of the year, I was presented with the opportunity to work on many projects. Unfortunately, a number of these projects either faded away completely or didn’t come to full fruition due to lack of funding. It was during this time that a very close friend – who knew of the finer details of my struggles behind the scenes – imparted some very valuable advice. She said, “be honest with yourself.” It is okay to feel low when things don’t work out the way you envisioned it to. But the real question is this: what are you going to do now? It is very easy to give in to defeat and difficult to keep going, especially when it feels like you have no support. Ultimately, accepting defeat/failure is a choice. Regard every challenge as an opportunity for change. I regard the Candid Chat blog posts as a testament of me putting this advice into action.

4. “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” – Thomas Jefferson

“We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.” – Sheryl Sandberg

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” – Harvey Fierstein

During this time, individuals define themselves by their successes (or lack thereof). Note: it is the effort one should laud more than the result. Sometimes an individual will put in more than a 1000% effort, but still not receive the result they wish to attain. That doesn’t mean that the individual hasn’t tried hard enough.

In times like that, especially, remember that one isn’t defined by her failures, nor is she defined by her successes. She is defined by how she chooses to be defined this current moment.

  1. Passion will move men [and women] beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures. – Joseph Campbell, American Mythologist, Writer, and Lecturer

Last year, I realized the importance of having passion for your work. It is when you love your work that every challenge will seem like an opportunity to learn and grow, which will, in turn, improve your quality of work.

I learned that with passion it is equally important to be disciplined and have a sense of direction. When you have these three things – passion, discipline, and direction – you can never go wrong.

For Candid Chat 2015 (Mid-Year Edition) click here

For Candid Chat 2014 click here

For Candid Chat 2013 click here

North Shore Peer Mediators Big Day Out

On Thursday 18th June, The Peace Foundation hosted the North Shore Cool Schools Peer Mediators’ Big Day Out at Upper Harbour Primary School. During the day, all the participants got to hear inspiring speeches given by our very own, Ymke Kootstra (The Peace Foundation Intern) and myself (Pink Shirt Day Presenter). Students and teachers also participated in a series of fun activities and workshops led by Christina Barruel, Head of Peace Education at The Peace Foundation. These activities and workshops encouraged the students and teachers to work together in mixed teams and to think about their role as peer mediators. What are the highlights and challenges? What are solutions to the challenges? Lots of great ideas were shared. At the end of the day, laughter filled the hall when students and teachers participated in some entertaining co-operative games.

Thank you to the students and teachers from Upper Harbour Primary School, Murrays Bay Primary School and Sherwood Primary School for participating in this event.

These photographs were taken by Chikita Kodikal (if otherwise stated). If you would like to seek permission to use these photos you can send a message by clicking on the contact Messages to Mumbai tab. Messages to Mumbai logo designed by Vidyut and Chikita Kodikal.

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Well-being For Children’s Success at Primary School

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This article was written by Chikita Kodikal and published in the MediationWorks Magazine 2015 Spring Edition.

In most New Zealand schools, student well-being is a central requirement. The inability to secure a safe environment for students at school has a direct impact on their ability to learn. As of February 2015, The Education Review Office (ERO) devised a report that delved deep into the different avenues schools had taken in order to create a culture that promoted the well-being of not just teachers and students, but also of their whanau (family). The report also looked into the various outcomes obtained with these schools having adopted different approaches to enhance well-being and student learning.

In term 1, 2014, The Education Review Office evaluated 159 schools from years 1 to 8 in order to understand how well they ‘promoted’ and ‘responded’ to student well-being. According to the report, nearly half of these selected schools promoted and responded reasonably well, while the other eighteen per cent had a relatively better approach as compared to the former lot of schools because well-being was promoted through the curriculum. A minor proportion of the listed schools chose to espouse The Extensive Approach, which students have found ‘deeply rewarding.’

The Extensive Approach is a revolutionary method that enabled students and teachers within the school to weave student well-being into their school’s core values and goals, consequently altering the culture of the school. The schools that used this approach had students, parents, and teachers, collectively, agree to a set of goals that accentuated primarily on student well-being and learning. These goals guided their actions, reviews and improvements. As a result, students found school ‘deeply rewarding’ as it not only improved their ability to learn, but also provided them with opportunities to develop leadership, self-efficacy and resourcefulness while participating with others, thus creating a ‘high trust’ culture and enhancing safety within the school. With this approach, students developed the ability to ‘take accountability for their own choices’. One of the reasons this approach worked successfully was because student leaders, alongside their teachers, were actively monitoring the well-being of students at school, while also reviewing the effectiveness of the approaches that were implemented.

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These are the desired outcomes that will materialize when schools implement all-inclusive practices with student wellbeing and student learning as the prime focus. (Source: Well-being for Children’s Success at Primary School, pg. 7)

The report devised by The Education Review Office states that there is not just one definition for ‘well-being for success.’ In fact, it assumes that young people are ‘active participants’ in not just their learning, but also in developing healthy lifestyles. The report further elaborates, ‘[a] student’s level of well-being at school is indicated by their satisfaction with life at school, their engagement with learning and their social-emotional behavior. It is enhanced when evidence-informed practices are adopted by schools in partnership with families of the students and their community. Optimal student well-being is a sustainable state, characterized by predominantly positive feelings and attitude, positive relationships at school, resilience, self-optimism and a high level of satisfaction with learning experiences.’  Adopting all-inclusive practices, such as The Extensive Approach, will materialize the desired outcomes.

It is important to understand that inclusivity plays an integral role in the mental, emotional and social well-being of a student. A sense of inclusivity is correlated to the way in which the student perceives themselves and their ability to learn inside and outside the classroom. Students want to feel accepted and valued by their peers. They also want their teachers to understand them and actively participate in their learning while also caring for them and proving that they are trustworthy.  On a similar note, parents want their children to be happy and feel safe at school.  They want their children to be able to relate to their peers, and also develop skills that will enable them to become independent. Parents want to ensure that if in case anything goes wrong at home or school, the teacher will aid the student in generating strategies that will help solve the conflict.

The schools that were unable to ‘promote’ and ‘respond’ to student well-being effectively lacked student involvement in creating an environment that enhanced their well-being and ability to learn. According to the report, some schools did not understand the relationship between values and well-being. This was mirrored in the ‘narrow’ definition of the school’s health curriculum and the very ‘compliance based’ method in which the schools had conferred with its students and the community.  Some schools did not ensure that students and teachers acquired a shared understanding of the values. In a few cases, the principal or leadership team had established the goals and values without referring to others and they were not illustrated in the curriculum either. This lack of interaction between students, teachers and the community prevented students from not only developing their leadership abilities, but also prevented them from creating a learning network that was supported by people other than their teacher.

It is essential to keep student well-being central in order to successfully implement The New Zealand Curriculum as it has a direct impact on the student’s ability to learn inside and outside the classroom and also because it fosters students into ‘confident young people.’

If you would like to know more about well-being for primary school students, please read ‘Well-being for Children’s Success at Primary School February 2015.’ If you would like to know more about well-being for secondary school students, please read ‘Well-being for Young People’s Success at Secondary School February 2015.’

Candid Chat 2015 (Mid-Year Edition)

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I normally upload these types of posts at the end of every year. But this year I have learnt so much that I feel the need to upload one now, before this blog post turns into a novel.

  1. “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”Aristotle

This year started off on a very bad note for me. The details of that account I shall keep to myself. Honestly, life felt like a series of (unwanted) things happening to me. I wasn’t in control and I most definitely wasn’t happy about it. Happiness is such a crucial part of our lives. I feel like a lot of the things we do in life is to ensure the happiness of oneself, and at times, others even. If we are not happy in our current job, we would seek another one. If one is not happy in a relationship, he/she either tries to restores it to its former glory or lets it go. Everyone, without exception, strives to be happy. But, we tend to forget one thing as we intertwine ourselves with life’s daily grind – Happiness is not a destination. Happiness was once just a state of being, however, now a lot of us (myself included) equate it with commodities, situations and/or people. And that is the same with other emotions such as anger and frustration. As Brene Brown states, ‘blame is a way to discharge pain.’ To that I would like to add, blaming others for the misery that has besieged our lives is the easiest way to escape taking accountability for our own actions. Taking accountability for our own actions is the best way to regain control in and of our lives. (Side note: What happens is when we are stuck in certain circumstances we expect the other person to change – he/she to take the first step. The reality is: we would be waiting all our lives for that person to change and there is no guarantee whether he/she will or not.) Happiness should come from within. When you are truly happy with who you are and what you have become are you able to radiate that feeling of absolute happiness to others.

  1. “Take the highroad, there is less traffic there.”Dr Phil

Throughout the course of this year, I found myself in absolutely undesirable situations; consulting people whom I otherwise would not have wanted to have any interaction with. We all, at some point in our lives, will find ourselves in situations like that where we feel unheard, disrespected and at times even humiliated. And at times like those, I have learnt (correction: am learning) to take the highroad. In an ideal situation, I would love to control what others think, say and do, especially if I am on the receiving end of it all. But I know well enough that I cannot do that. What I can do, however, is stay in control of my thoughts, words and actions. How the other person behaves is a reflection of him/her, on the other hand, how I respond to that behaviour is a reflection of me. This is not to say that you should not address the issue. By all means, please do. Address the issue, with the person concerned, in the most appropriate manner where both individuals come out as winners.

  1. “Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” Henry Winkler “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw, Leadership Skills for Managers

Sometimes, we underestimate the power of effective communication (and effective listening). Firstly, it is really important for us to understand that while we all have a right to freedom of speech, we also have a responsibility to freedom of speech. Every right comes with a responsibility. We have to realize that our thoughts, speech and actions have an impact (be it positive or negative) on not only ourselves, but also others. In the last few days, I have really understood how situations can take a turn for the worse if it has not been addressed in an appropriate manner with the person or people concerned.

To be honest, I have had those days where I am not able to confront the individual and let him/her know how his/her words and/or actions has inconvenienced me/caused me a great deal of pain. And that, to be frank, has landed me into a lot of trouble. I had found myself internalizing a lot of those emotions that later strained not only the relationships that I had with others, but also the relationship that I had with myself. I also found myself painting everyone with the same brush. Person X hurt me in the past, I am sure Person Y will do the same.

I found myself in a situation not too long ago that made me realize that the delivery (how you communicate or method of communication) of the message is important if not MORE important than the actual message (what you communicate) itself. If you want people to hear you, furthermore, if you want people to understand you, you have to deliver your message in a manner that is respectful and polite, yet firm and clear. Respect, after all, is a two way street. Ultimately, we all want to feel accepted and appreciated (for who we are) and that is not possible if our individual needs are not met or if we feel unheard, disrespected or even humiliated.

In a case where you feel disrespected, it is good to just have a chat with that person to let him/her know about what you are feeling/thinking. Simply assuming that he/she knows already and does not want to rectify his/her mistake is most definitely a big problem.

  1. “Chang-an writes, “If one befriends another person but lacks the mercy to correct him, one is in fact his enemy.” The consequences of a grave offense are extremely difficult to erase. The most important thing is to continually strengthen our wish to benefit others.”Nichiren Daishonin

I have no issues with people correcting me in a constructive manner. I really do not. In fact, I would expect my family and friends to point me in the right direction if I have gone astray. And I sincerely appreciate all those who do because it takes an immense amount of courage speak out.

  1. “Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.” Heath L. Buckmaster, Box of Hair: A Fairy Tale 

I am by nature a talkative and opinionated young woman. And unfortunately, these characteristics are not always widely appreciated in the society I live in (even more so if these qualities exist in a young woman). In my teenage years, I was severely picked on for having these qualities. So much so that I absolutely hated having to talk to people or voice my opinions. But these are the same qualities that helped me change my life around. Today, I am not only invited by individuals/organizations/schools and universities to talk about issues such as bullying and gender inequality, but also called to host events. Through my speeches and because of my opinions I am not only able to form strong connections with people from all walks of life, but also actively change a situation that is often times seen as vexatious. This would have never happened if I had not embraced who I am. Hence why, today, I am unfazed by comments that seemingly attack those qualities of mine. Furthermore, I learnt never to be apologetic for being you. You can apologize for unintentionally inconveniencing someone or doing something inappropriate, but you should never have to apologize for being who you are.

  1. “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”Phil Collins

Yesterday, I was invited to a primary school here in Auckland, New Zealand to conduct a workshop with the students. Mind you, these students are between the ages of 8 to 10. There is so much you can learn from having a one-on-one interaction with them. What an awe-inspiring experience! I am always told that I should become a teacher because I work well with kids. Personally, I believe that to be able to teach (and likewise, to be able to learn) is such an important skill to have. Teaching, in my opinion, is not just a name of a profession; in a way, it is a way of life. When you are in a situation where you do not know something and want to learn it, you become the student. When you are in a situation where you know something and need to teach it, you become the teacher.

I have been to a few schools this year and unfortunately I almost always hear at least one student say: “I am bad at this” or “I am dumb.” It breaks my heart to know that these kids have so much potential and they do not even know it. Unfortunately, our society and education system programs children to avoid, and furthermore be afraid of making mistakes and/or failing. What these kids (and adults) do not know is that when you stop making mistakes, you stop learning. We all make mistakes and learn from them. That is the beauty of making mistakes. People carry this false idea of success being a straight road. It is only when you truly embrace failure and rejection that you are able to create a springboard to success.

Well, that is all for now. Have a great rest of the year, everyone!

For Candid Chat 2014 click here

For Candid Chat 2013 click here

Candid Chat 2014

This year has been quite an emotional roller coaster ride. I do have those days where I wish I could go back and make a few adjustments and that is only natural for any human being; however, today just so happens to be one of those days where I cherish every lesson learnt, regardless of what I had to endure in order to learn it.

  1. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill &“Believe you can and you are already halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Without a doubt, this has to be one of the most important lessons I learnt in 2014. I have to admit, I started this year on a very naïve note. I truly believed that 2014 would be my defining year. I thought I would be able to gallantly surmount all the trials and tribulations that were to come. As the months went on by, I realized nothing was happening as I had planned. All my ventures would either start (with a big bang) and then fade into oblivion or not start at all. And it is at times like this that the world and your mind for that matter begin to militate. Self-doubt became my comrade. I made a conscious decision not to talk with anyone about it – not a very good idea. Self doubt is like a pest, the more you groom and nurture it; it will turn its back on you and corrode you from inside out.

Our society doesn’t reward defeat or failure for that matter. Many of us make a conscious effort to avoid the prospect of it. So much so that we loath its very presence in an individual’s life… our life. For this very reason, ever since my high school days, I always feared failure. The more I feared it, the more it infused its way into my life. It was like living my worst nightmare…

  1. Procrastination is the thief of my success.

I began to fear failure so much so that I began to procrastinate my way out of it – again, not a very good idea. Procrastination is a thief, I tell you. It stole my precious time and the benefit of the hard work that I had invested the months prior. I wanted to attain perfection, but didn’t feel like I acquired the capability to do so no matter how hard I worked…

  1. “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” – Richard Puz, The Carolinian
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My amazing grandfather and I.

In all this mess, I lost someone who meant a great deal to me – my grandfather. Losing a loved one is never easy. Never. After my grandfather’s passing, my family and I made a conscious decision to celebrate his life – every moment of it – so as to make his memories and accomplishments live on. In fact, we were so excited because it was the beginning of a new journey for him – not the end. Although we do not have the ability to physically see and feel the presence of the person whom we have just lost, it does not mean that they no longer exist they have just taken a new form.

My grandfather’s passing was a reminder to me that our time here is indeed limited, and therefore we should utilize each day to the fullest. No matter what the outcome.

  1. “When we change, the world changes. The key to all change is in our inner transformation—a change of our hearts and minds. This is human revolution. We all have the power to change. When we realize this truth, we can bring forth that power anywhere, anytime, and in any situation.” – Daisaku Ikeda

I didn’t quite realize the power of positivity till half way this year. Being positive is hard work, especially for someone like me who befriends pessimism quite easily. It took me a while to realize that everything is down to me. As long as I hold a negative attitude within myself, I cannot really expect the alternative to manifest in the environment around me. The moment I took accountability for all that had happened to me in the past, things started to pick pace a little. I had noticed that up until that point, for the most part, I had only interacted with individuals that would degrade me (and I would allow myself to be degraded) or fostered friendships that in the long run turned out to be rather toxic. The moment my attitude changed, I changed. As a result of this change, I had to let go of some bad habits and along with that some friendships; however, this change also opened doors to new and unexpected opportunities and along the way I befriended some amazing individuals who have not just lifted me up the days I succumbed to my self-doubt, but also propelled me further to accomplish much greater things. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hold any angst or animosity towards any of those individuals who degraded me, instead I am so grateful to them for having taught me the lessons that they did and I wish them well.

As far as my dreams and ambitions are concerned (the ventures that I spoke of earlier) – let me tell you, where there is a will there is a way.

Now, in hindsight, I honestly feel like 2014 was my defining year; my year of victory. I suppose, all these months I was searching for some type award, a trophy perhaps, that would validate all the blood, sweat and tears that I invested into all the adventures and projects I embarked on. Life is never going to get easier, we just get stronger. Our increasing strength and wisdom is our own reward, our motivation to take on bigger and greater things. I learnt to regard failure as a  stepping stone towards the next greatest thing. As Thomas Edison mentioned upon the creation of the light bulb, “I have not failed,  I have just found a 10,000 ways that won’t work.Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try one more time.”

I really struggled with writing this, primarily because no one likes to disclose their flaws and failures. But if this post could help even a single individual, I have done my job. 🙂

On that note, Merry Christmas and hope you all have a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

For 2013 Realization (Candid Chat) click here

Candid Chat 2013

With the academic year coming to a close here in New Zealand, I thought I should take it on myself to draw upon all the things that I have come realize this year. While I would like to say that this has been the MOST AMAZING YEAR OF MY LIFE (and make my life sound idealistic), I am instead going to be honest and tell you that this year belongs in the category of ‘the most challenging years ever’ along with several of my other most challenging years.

  1. 1.    Health is Wealth

It took me a while to realize health is another definition of wealth. Now let me explain why, I’ll use some of my personal experiences as a backdrop to this valuable advice.

For those of you who don’t know me very well, I’d like you to know that I am a work-a-holic and a perfectionist. Now that, my friend, is a deadly combination. And if you are a work-a-holic/perfectionist or even both, I sympathize with your situation. Being a work-a-holic and perfectionist means that I have the uncanny ability to use and abuse my body like a machine.  There have been so many days were I have completely forgotten what sleeping feels like because I have wanted to finish a project, for example, to perfection. And trust me, those days where I don’t get something done to perfection all hell breaks loose – upon myself. I realized that these past few years, on countless occasions I had driven my body to a point of physical, mental and even emotional exhaustion. So many-a-times neglecting myself of luxuries such as sleep, a nourishing diet and a healthy social life. Despite having fallen sick a number of times in my last year of high school, I hadn’t realized the value of a healthy body and healthy mind up until just a few days ago when my body started to give way as a result of a series of panic attacks right before my exams. Those of you that have experienced the plight of panic attacks know that it drains the life out of you and you are left in a condition were neither your body nor mind wants to work at the pace it used to.

My mother would make it a point to constantly remind me that health is in fact wealth. She would reiterate the importance of maintaining a healthy balanced life suggesting that I hang out with friends, have a proper diet and get adequate sleep whilst completing my work. To me all these things felt like excuses for being unproductive. But these last few weeks, I have been rudely awakened to the importance of health and how health should not be taken for granted. It is truly unfortunate that I hadn’t been open to taking her advice prior to this experience. But I sincerely thank my mom for having been so consistent with this valuable advice.

  1. 2.    Imperfection is the new perfection.

If you are a student or have ever been a student you will be well aware of the fact that at school or even in college you are gradually coerced into defining yourself according to the kinds of grades you acquire throughout the academic year. In the last few years, I have realized that students are willing to do anything to achieve that A grade and frankly speaking I am in no position to critize cause I have done more than half of those things on the list. Dr Phil once mentioned, “I rather have a B that I earned than an A that I stole.” And that is rightly so.

I hate to break it to you, but none of us are perfect. Most of the time we strive to be the best (in the sense – aiming to beat the rest), when in actuality we should be striving to be better than what we were yesterday or the day before.

  1. 3.    Rome wasn’t built in a day.

It’s true, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will obtaining a successful life be achieved in a single night. It is just like climbing a ladder or even playing a computer game, in order to get to the last level you need to past the first. Passing each level takes time. Sometimes, things don’t happen as we would like it to, but that doesn’t mean that we have failed. It is important for us to remember that when things don’t go our way, it happens for a reason. Later, in the near future, that ‘reason’ will unveil revealing to you the bigger picture, which for all you know maybe better than your original plan.

  1. 4.    Don’t cry over split milk. Clean it up and pour yourself another glass!

What has happened is the past. Its gone and it isn’t coming back. Let me tell you now, failure is not when you fall, but it is when you refuse to get back up again. Those mistakes you made or those times you fell are moments that make you stronger, moments that pave the path to your ultimate success. Rejoice every mistake that you made because that is what has made you far wiser than what you were yesterday.

  1. 5.    Appreciation is the key to happiness, while comparison is the theft of joy.

Appreciate every moment in your life – good or bad – it is there for a reason. If comparison is necessary, compare yourself to what you were yesterday.